Bo (Exodus 10:1 – 13:16)

Free at last, free at last!  Well, sort of.

A new civil year has just started.  For an interesting history of why 2014 is 2014 and why New Year’s Eve is a time for New Year’s Eve wildness, see (thanks, Stanley!).  January 1 brings a sense of freedom, freedom from December 31 deadlines, whether or not you met them; from the recent avalanche of requests for donations; and freedom to ponder a fresh, new year.  Many make resolutions, but in order to look forward you have to look back.  While my New Year’s celebrations never got remotely close to debauchery, several stand out as touchstones.  When I was a child, we used to have small celebrations with the G’s (Dr. G was my father’s colleague and long-time friend).  At 10 or 11, I was playing catch, with their son Neil, in the upstairs hallway, with a wooden croquet ball, and I was just getting the hang of using a glove when the ball ricocheted off the stairway newel into my mouth.  As the blood dribbled onto my quilted navy skirt, the two doctors decided I didn’t need stitches; I didn’t, but one front tooth is still a bit pushed back.  At 16, my then sort-of-but-never-really boyfriend and I mapped out our professional academic futures, not very accurately, using a Ouija board.  And when I was 23, my fiancé and I announced our till-then private engagement and showed off the ring he had paid for using his anesthesiology elective fellowship money.

Yes, this actually has something to do with this week’s Torah portion, if you think about the freedom a new year, or another milestone, can bring.  Parashat Bo includes The Exodus from Egypt, the freeing of the Israelite slaves.  Yet if you look at the text, the actual exodus is barely described (12:51): “That very day the Lord freed the Israelites from the land of Egypt, troop by troop.”  What matters more is what happens after fleeing Egypt.

The portion starts with the last three plagues, locusts, darkness, and the slaying of the first born, each of which relates to freedom.  The locusts eat what remains from the earlier plagues; how free can one be when starving?  The darkness, physical and emotional, is demoralizing and imprisons the Egyptians in their dwellings, in contrast to the light in Goshen.  The horrors of the tenth plague allow the Israelites to escape to freedom.  Israelites are given instructions concerning how to mark their doors with blood so the Angel of Death will pass over them, then laws concerning how to celebrate this first Passover, how to celebrate it in future years and still more laws, concerning the firstborn and tefillin (aka “frontlets” – see  These are the first of many laws they are commanded to follow.  But isn’t having to follow all these laws, and the many more to come, the antithesis of freedom?  Freedom is not anarchy or lawlessness.  What freedom will require of the Israelites on the path to nationhood, they have yet to discover.

Shabbat shalom,


These locusts came from Egypt to Israel!

Israel’s Locust Invasion from Egypt Comes Weeks before Passover

tph locusts

Wednesday, 13 Mar 2013 01:03 PM

By Alexandra Ward

The swarm of locusts that tore through Egypt last week has descended on neighboring Israel, just two weeks before the Passover holiday and, fittingly, in the midst of a whirlwind of media attention for the History Channel’s new miniseries “The Bible.”

Millions of locusts have reportedly been clouding the skies in parts of southern Israel as officials try to keep the swarms under control by spraying pesticides on the ground and crop dusting from the air. So far, efforts to eradicate the locusts have been unsuccessful.

The Ministry of Agriculture has setup a hotline for Israelis to report swarm sightings.

Locusts are known to decimate agriculture, stripping fields and feeding on crops. When they get hungry, a one-ton hoard of locusts can eat the same amount of food in one day as 2,500 humans. Israel has not encountered locusts in nearly eight years, according to NBC News.

The locust invasion comes ahead of the Passover festival, which recounts the biblical story of the Jewish exodus from Egypt. A plague of locusts was one of 10 plagues God imposed on Egyptians for enslaving and abusing ancient Hebrews, according to the Bible.


Darkness and Light Quotations

“The dance between darkness and light will always remain— the stars and the moon will always need the darkness to be seen, the darkness will just not be worth having without the moon and the stars.”
― C. JoyBell C.

“The bigger the darkness, the easier it is to spot your little light.”
― Brother AndrewGod’s Smuggler

“In tragedy and despair, when an endless night seems to have fallen, hope can be found in the realization that the companion of night is not another night, that the companion of night is day, that darkness always gives way to light, and that death rules only half of creation, life the other half.”
― Dean KoontzLightning

“Maybe that’s what the night is for, just so’s we can know the difference when the light comes again.”
― Howard BahrThe Black Flower: A Novel of the Civil War


Friday, October 28, 2011

Redeeming a Firstborn Donkey – Pidyon Petter Chamor -Comes to Cleveland (lightly abridged)

 tph petter

An obscure religious ceremony is becoming less obscure. First in Melbourne, then the Catskills, and now in Cleveland. We hadn’t heard about the mitzvah of redeeming a firstborn male donkey with a sheep until a story appeared in the Australian press two years ago.

We posted the video in October 2009 and a year later we posted a similar story about another redemption ceremony by the Sanz-Klausenberg sect in their Catskills retreat.

Earlier this month it was performed again, at the Mosdos Ohr Hatorah boys’ school in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. The event was attended by 1,200 people, including dozens of Rabbonim.

Similar to the Pidyon haBen ceremony of the redemption of the first-born male child, this ritual involves buying the first-born male donkey back from a Kohen in exchange for a sheep rather than money.  The source for the redemption is Exodus 13:13, which lists the obligation to redeem a donkey before the obligation to redeem a son.

This particular mitzvah has not been so easy to fulfill. As the rabbi in Melbourne said, “it’s difficult to find a Jewish donkey


Top Ten Ways The Jewish Exodus is Similar to Martha Stewart’s Exodus from Jail
by the bang’n staff   (sent out 7 years ago)

10. When leaving, both developed creative recipes for making bread.

9.  Martha can provide over a 100 ways to garden bitter herbs so they are less bitter.

8. Both were really in jail in the first place for selling the wrong thing.

7. Plague of blood got the Jews out, Martha can get a stain of blood out.

6. Clean your house! Breadcrumbs are so out this season.

5. Martha Stewart Living Inc. had to let its people go.

4. A well-painted doorpost can really save your home.

3. The media is ready for a night full of questions (a lot more than 4).

2. For Martha, the seder night is not all that different from all other nights.

1. Both leave bondage with opportunity, money, and above all, movie rights.


Dead link.  I first sent this out in 2001.  IGP

TALEISIM EAST (excerpted)

Once again this year Taleisim East, America’s leading Judaica emporium, is pleased to offer a sampling of unusual and desirable items of Jewish interest.  Because we understand the needs of all Jews, irrespective of their affiliations, we have achieved the kind of reputation we truly deserve.

We are featuring a wide variety of Tefillin.  What follows are just a few varieties of these holy boxes, along with items of related interest.

1.  The modern Jew is as health conscious as are all Americans, and busier than most.  Thus it’s a real blessing to be able to combine exercises of the soul with those of the body for efficiency. How can this be done?  With _Rite Vibes_, our new vibrating Tefillin!  This miraculous innovation allows you to tone your body while you intone your prayers.  It’s a wonder no one thought of it before.

2.  Another modern time saver is _Knot No More_, our new pre-wrapped tefillin — slip on, slip off.

3.  And an even faster way of getting the feeling of the morning even if you lack both the time and the dedication is with Taleisim East’s new-as-the-morning-paper Tefillin Press.  Just slide your arm in and push the button.  It gives you that authentic “I just davened” look without the hassle.

4.  You’re a vegetarian — no, not just a vegetarian, a Vegan.  You don’t even wear leather or wool, let alone have furniture upholstered with Nauga hides.  But the tefillin you wear: what about the scrolls and the leather?  What’s a Vegan to do?  Simple!  Get yourself Tofillin — 100% vegetable based, but indistinguishable from the real thing.  Now you can pray without preying.  (Also from TW, tofu based mezzuzot and Torahs.)


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1 Response to Bo (Exodus 10:1 – 13:16)

  1. een1096 says:

    Thanks, I. Love it when you bring in the childhood memories. I loved it when we visited the Gubermans on New Year’s Eve.

    The next time you come remind me to give you the charcoal.


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